Here it is. The first official movie review. And I picked a good one. A Silent Voice (The Shape of Voice; Koe no Katachi; 聲の形) returned to American theaters for the second time this week for a special two-night event (one night for the Sub, and one night for the
wrong one Dub) and I couldn’t help myself. I had to go watch it again. Sure, this is my 4th time watching it, but only one of those had been in theaters and I wanted to experience it again. Let me tell you, even on the fourth viewing it was just as impactful as the first. Spoilers ahead.
If I haven’t already made it clear, I’m a huge fan of almost anything Kyoto Animation puts out. Their art is always gorgeous, their music and timing perfect, and the cast perfectly selected for their roles. Maybe I’ve got some rose colored glasses on, but I have yet to find a KyoAni production that I don’t enjoy.
A Silent Voice tackles the difficult subject of bullying, and the far reaching consequences it has for everyone involved, including the bully themselves. It tackles alienation, isolation, suicide, self loathing, forgiveness, sacrifice and redemption.
Rather than simply delve into the plot for this one (you’re really better off watching it unfold yourself), I’d rather talk about the things that I like about this movie.
I like that it doesn’t try to paint a picture of simple “good vs evil.” The movie doesn’t try to take the “victim: protect; bully: bad” flat approach. It shows how harmful bullying can be without directly making the bully a villain. The bully is human; that isn’t an excuse for his actions, but simply a reality. And when the bullying is turned towards the bully, it breaks him. But the movie isn’t interested in simply breaking him and leaving him there as the conquered villain; the movie breaks him down and then shows his long, tough path to redemption.
But it doesn’t simply focus on the redemption of the bully. It also explores the long and somewhat complicated life of his victim, a girl who struggles to fit in due to hearing so poor she’s basically deaf. While it might seem obvious to everyone reading this that being deaf is nothing to be ashamed of or laughed at, children are often cruel to anyone who’s different. This movie is just as much about her redemption as it is about the bully’s redemption.
I like that this movie is messy. Even when people are trying their hardest, whether it’s the bully, the victim, or the surrounding friends and family, nothing is clear cut and perfect. People still make mistakes and resist the pain that comes with facing the reality of their flawed character. It’s something they have to strive to overcome because it’s a deep wound that cannot correct itself.
More than anything, this movie shows that life can be painful. It can be a struggle to accept those who are different; it can be difficult to accept and forgive yourself for things you’ve done in your past. But life can also be beautiful without being perfect. Accepting those around you, imperfections and all, and letting them love you when you can’t find a way to love yourself, may be one of the toughest things people have to realize. After all, life is easier if you try to simply live apart and apologize for existing. But that’s not what life is about. Nobody lives on this planet alone, so don’t try to do it alone.